Giving Compass’ Take:
• Dan Cardinali writes that the United States can restore the trust that allows civil society to flourish by emphasizing the values that have long bound us together and by adopting the newer values of shared power and racial equity.
• Are we putting power into the right hands? How can funders work to protect and renew civil society?
It’s been a year since Stanford Social Innovation Review and Independent Sector completed the series “Civil Society for the 21st Century.” The series wasn’t conceived as a book, but when I read it that way, I’m filled with a kind of clear-eyed hope. Yes, American civil society has its shortcomings and its blind spots, but it is a living thing that grows and evolves.
For the past 50 years or so, the trend has been to tear down the systemic barriers that discouraged so many people from participating in civil society based on race, class, gender, sexual identity, and more. The barriers have not gone away, but I believe they are lower than ever before, and as a result we see unparalleled diversity among those actively engaged in civil society through giving, voting, volunteering, and organizing.
Difference is a good thing, but it’s also complex by definition. We spend decades tearing down walls to include more voices and viewpoints in civil society, and only then does the truly hard work begin. If civil society is “private action in pursuit of the public good,” then the definition of “good” must necessarily shift each time we expand our concept of the “public.” We innately know what’s good for the groups we identify with, but a diverse civil society asks us to consider other identities and other “goods”—and that can be exhausting.
Read the full article about the renewal of civil society by Dan Cardinali at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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